A healthier and more engaged staff can enhance employee morale and job performance while minimizing stress.

We live in a 24/7 stressful society, filled with uncertainty in the job market, the economy, competition, etc. A large percentage of employees admit to being unhappy with and psychologically disengaged from their jobs.

Recent research shows that among the least-happy and least-engaged employees, the annual per-person cost of lost productivity due to sick days is more than $28,000, versus only $840 among the happiest and most-engaged employees.

Furthermore, job stress alone is estimated to cost U.S. industry at least $300 billion a year in absenteeism, diminished productivity, employee turnover and direct medical, legal and insurance fees.

Matt has been a manager for 16 years. Although his employees seem satisfied with their compensation, surveys conducted with them consistently show that their job satisfaction and morale are low, and their stress levels are high. Matt has been well trained but seems at a loss regarding helping his employees to feel more engaged or happy with their jobs. Because he feels helpless to change the job situation for his employees, Matt, himself, is stressed at work and is unhappy in his supervisor role.

Can Matt regain his passion for his profession? Are there techniques he can use that will immediately enhance his employees’ satisfaction and morale? Absolutely! Here are five powerful prescriptions for enhancing employee morale and job performance and minimizing job stress.

1. Provide your employees with empowering goal-setting strategies. People are 11 times more likely to reach a goal when they write it down, as opposed to simply thinking about the goal. Have regular meetings with your work team, where in addition to encouraging them to discuss their areas of discontentment, join with them in writing down short and long-term goals that are specific and action-oriented.

For example, “For this month, we will have four meetings where we will design and implement our new plan for developing a psychologically healthy workplace. Your goal is to bring an idea with you to each meeting.” Next, ask your people to visualize themselves feeling wonderful once they have accomplished that goal.

Ask them to imagine that they have already accomplished the goal. Finally, perhaps most importantly, have them write down ways in which they can sabotage themselves so that they will not accomplish those goals. Encourage them to be honest with themselves about the kinds of self-talk or self-defeating behaviors that they have unfortunately engaged in before, which contribute to not accomplishing their goals.

2. Provide your employees with a sense of control over their jobs. Psychological studies of jobs are filled with examples of how important it is to give employees a genuine “say” in how to conduct their jobs. Not only does the perception that management truly cares about their feelings have a powerful impact on their morale and degree of job engagement, but giving workers some control over how to approach their work tasks dramatically reduces job burnout, absenteeism and turnover.

Have frequent meetings with your employees directed at genuinely listening to their issues and allow them to suggest resolutions. Finally, encourage workers to determine their own specific strengths and put them to use on their jobs.

When this is done, employees are six times as likely to be engaged in their jobs and more than three times as likely to report excellent quality of life at their workplace. Some ways to allow employees more involvement in their work are:

• self-managed work teams
• employee committees or task forces
• continuous-improvement teams
• team-centered hiring processes, where employees select their peers
• participative decision-making projects

3. Provide growth and development programs for your employees such as brownbag learning programs. Most employees desire the opportunity to gain new skills and knowledge, so they don’t feel stagnant in their jobs. Information provided by outside experts, which will help them on their jobs and in their lives, can serve these needs. Providing lunchtime seminars and workshops on such topics as stress mastery, anger mastery enhanced wellness, communications skills, as well as cross-training them with other job skills enhances organizational effectiveness and improves work quality.

4. Provide a variety of planned and spontaneous recognition events for your employees. It’s a no-brainer for companies to provide world-class service for their customers and clients, but they often forget that their most important assets — their employees — need the same. Why not make your employees feel as valued as your customers? By acknowledging their efforts — not just their productivity — you can increase employee satisfaction, morale and self esteem

5. Provide a warm, accepting and fun workplace atmosphere, jest for the health of it! If you want your employees to look forward to Monday mornings, provide an atmosphere that includes fun, teamwork and camaraderie. Acknowledging employee needs and allowing talent and creativity to flourish will keep employees motivated and happy. Examples of providing an accepting workplace include:

• Have a “Whine and Geeze” area where employees can go to melt away stress.
• Inject funny quotes and cartoons into company memos.
• Have positive parties funded by negative people. (Every time colleagues are overheard making a negative comment, have them put 50 cents into a kitty).
• Have monthly theme contests where goofy prizes are awarded.
• Have a surprise treat day once a month, such as having the manager serving the employees bags of popcorn, or ice cream bars, etc.

If you begin to employ these five potent strategies into your workplace, you will quickly see results.

Dr. Jack Singer is a licensed industrial/organizational and sports psychologist, professional speaker and consultant to Fortune 1000 corporations from Miami to Malaysia. The author of four stress mastery books, Dr. Jack presents customized growth and development, motivational and inspirational keynotes and workshops for organizations, conferences and associations. Dr. Jack can be reached at DrJack@FunSpeaker.com or 800-497-9880. Visit FunSpeaker.com for additional information.


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